Freshwater Rescue Plan launched by leading organisations

Leaders from major tourism, science, health, recreation and environmental organisations are coming together to launch an unprecedented plan for solving the country’s freshwater crisis.

The Freshwater Rescue Plan presents seven steps that the organisations say political parties forming the next government should commit to if they are serious about saving New Zealand’s rivers and lakes.

The first step outlined in the Freshwater Rescue Plan is to protect New Zealanders health and their waterways by setting strict and enforceable water quality standards based on human health and ecosystems health limits.

The Plan, launched today at a joint press conference in Wellington, comes four months after the Government released its Clean Water Package. This was widely condemned for lacking urgency and for weakening protection of rivers and lakes.

The Freshwater Rescue Plan also calls for an end to public funding of irrigation schemes, and as step three of the plan, redirecting that funding to support the transition of the agricultural sector towards more sustainable practices.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has found that even with best practice mitigation, we can’t have both dairy expansion and healthy waterways. Therefore, step four of the plan is the immediate implementation of strategies to decrease the number of cows nationally.

The organisations maintain that it is vital for the steps to be adopted together. Strict water quality standards can only be effective alongside an integrated approach. Each step in the Freshwater Rescue Plan supports and reinforces the others.

The final step in the plan is adopting the OECD recommendation to establish a whole-of-government, multi-stakeholder process to develop a long-term vision for the transition of New Zealand to a low-carbon, greener economy as step seven of the plan.

In recent months, three independent reports have provided overwhelming evidence that our rivers and lakes are in serious trouble.

The Government has the power to stop the contamination of freshwater and protect New Zealand rivers and lakes. While the organisations acknowledge that the process will take time, they stress that politicians must start now.

We have the steps needed to deal with the freshwater crisis – all that’s missing is the political will to do so.

Seven steps of the Freshwater Rescue Plan:

  1. Prioritise the health of people and their waterways by setting strict and enforceable water quality standards, based on human and ecosystem health limits.
  2. Withdraw all public subsidies of irrigation schemes, as they increase pressure on waterways.
  3. Invest in an Agricultural Transition Fund, to support the country's shift away from environmentally-damaging farming methods by redirecting $480 million of public money earmarked for irrigation.
  4. Implement strategies to decrease cow numbers immediately.
  5. Reduce freshwater contamination by instigating polluter pays systems nationally.
  6. Address the performance of regional council’s on improving water quality through quarterly reports from the Ministry for the Environment on enforcement, breaches and monitoring.
  7. Adopt OECD recommendation to establish a "whole-of-government, multi-stakeholder process to develop a long-term vision for the transition of New Zealand to a low-carbon, greener economy”.

For more information, visit www.freshwaterrescueplan.org